Father Forgive: Canon Andrew White

Pre-accredited ministers were encouraged to read this book at their latest conference exploring aspects of “shalom.” So I thought I’d better give it a read.

Andrew White, often referred to as the Vicar of Baghdad, unpacks in this book a lifetime of ministry devoted to peacemaking.

Using the Coventry Litany of reconciliation as his starting point, he explores the impact of covetousness, greed, envy, indifference, lust and pride on personal, national and international conflict. This is a section of the book that I will undoubtedly return to again and again. It is full of insight into human nature and for me, raised questions that I found helpful in reflecting on the motivations of both sides of the independence debate in Scotland.

Drawing on years of experience working in the Middle East and Israel/Palestine, he unpacks the journey of the Jewish Christian rift as well as the Islamic rift between Sunni and Shea Muslims. There are many fascinating stories of the long-term work that Canon Andrew White has been involved in over the years with other prominent peacemakers such as Justin Welby.

However, the most personally striking motif of the book is found in the title “Father forgive.” Andrew White keeps returning to our own need of reconciliation. The book is purposefully not entitled “Father forgive them.” Andrew believes in and demonstrates the counter-intuitive, biblical understanding of forgiveness as Christ taught. As we need to be forgiven over and over again, so he seeks to offer forgiveness over and over again in his ministry of reconciliation.

It’s an easy read with challenging consequences, if we take up the call to be ministers of reconciliation. In summary, Andrew White says:

“Reconciliation is at the heart of Christian ministry and we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation is about mending that which is broken – restoring relationships to all that they were intended to be. Jesus taught us to love our enemies – a radical, countercultural statement. Love is reconciliation in practice, because there can be no reconciliation without forgiveness. At the heart of conflict is the mis-truth that it is always somebody else who is the problem.”